DOJ leaker caught, pleads guilty to outing cooperating witnesses in drug case

Contractor in Iowa worked on civil side but accessed criminal files. Names of cooperating witnesses ultimately leaked on social media.

Published: November 6, 2020 3:09pm

Updated: November 6, 2020 4:51pm

A former Justice Department contractor in Iowa pleaded guilty Friday to accessing and leaking the names of witnesses cooperating in a drug-trafficking investigation.

Danielle Taff, 37, of Ankeny, Iowa, worked as a contract paralegal at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Des Moines between June 2017 and June 2018. She pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and related activity in connection with computers. A sentencing date was not set.

Prosecutors said that while employed as a paralegal, Taff was assigned to the office's civil division, where she worked exclusively on matters related to civil forfeiture and was neither required nor authorized to access files and information related to criminal cases. 

Taff admitted that on May 16, 2018, she used her work computer to access criminal files stored on a shared data storage drive, including reports of law enforcement interviews with at least two individuals who cooperated in a drug-trafficking investigation. Taff used her cell phone to take 30 photographs of the information in the drug-trafficking investigation, the prosecutors said.

Taff shared the photographed evidence with a friend, who subsequently shared it with several individuals on Facebook. As a result, in October 2018, other individuals posted those photographs to a Facebook group dedicated to outing "snitches," or law enforcement cooperators, in the Des Moines, Iowa region.

At least two cooperators in the drug-trafficking investigation were outed by name and other personal identifiers, prosecutors said.

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